At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965...
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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Paul McCartney Concert ReviewBlogger News Network (blog), May 20th
Paul was handed a 12 string guitar to play “Another Day,” another song that somewhat lessened the crowd's enthusiasm. The energy was boosted again with “And I Love Her,” which brought a collective response of peaceful joy from the crowd. Moving back...Read more
Los Paisanos honored at conjunto festSan Antonio Express, May 19th
“The brothers loved music. When they were young, they had followers galore.” The award was not taken lightly by its recipients. “It's a real honor for our family,” said Juan Johnson, who plays bajo setxo, the Mexican 12-string guitar tuned in fourths...Read more
David Bowie: 'He weighed about 98lb for Young Americans and was the whitest ...Daily Mail, May 18th
He took out a battered 12-string guitar and played Changes and Life On Mars, one after the other, and they were amazing. I stopped him and asked: 'Why are you playing them on this battered guitar?' And he said: 'I write everything on this because if I...Read more
[VIDEO] New postal stamp honors Tejano music icon, Lydia MendozaNBC Latino, May 17th
With only her 12-string guitar to accompany her hearty voice, she recorded more than a thousand songs in her 70-year career. “Mendoza was a true American pioneer, whose unique voice and style of singing, paved the way for a whole new generation of...Read more
US Postal Service Commemorates Tejano Singer Lydia Mendoza With StampFox News Latino, May 17th
Mendoza performed the Spanish-language music of the Texas-Mexico borderlands, singing to and about the poor and working-class people on both sides of the Rio Grande. Mendoza was soulful and usually accompanied only by her 12-string guitar...Read more
Pete Seeger and fans enjoy sharing songsAlbany Times Union, May 16th
Pete, meanwhile, alternated between his 12-string guitar and his long-neck banjo. There were, of course, those classic Pete songs — "Turn, Turn, Turn" (with additional children's-oriented verses penned by Pete's wife Toshi) and the rousing encore of...Read more
Tejano Matriarch Immortalized By U.S. Postal ServiceTexas Public Radio, May 16th
Mendoza was born to a musical family in Houston in 1916 and she progressed in her talents, eventually mastering the 12-string guitar. Mendoza is one of several pioneering musicians being honored in the postal services' Music Icon stamp series. "She's...Read more
Houston-born singer Mendoza honored with US stampSan Francisco Chronicle, May 15th
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Lydia Mendoza's heartbreaking voice and 12-string guitar could, in the words of Flaco Jimenez, sound "like the stars falling from the sky." Many consider Mendoza the greatest Mexican American female singer of the 20th century...Read more